Keys to Fruitfulness
Category : Spiritual Foods
The Bible has many references to Christians being like trees or branches on a vine. Do you remember the man in Psalm 1 who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly nor stands in the way of the sinner, nor sits in the seat of the mocker? The Psalmist tells us that, “He shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, which bears its fruit in its season, whose leaf shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper.” Wouldn’t you like everything you do to prosper?
Jesus uses the parable of the vine in John 15 to show us how we need to abide in Him if we are to be fruitful. In his book, You Shall Receive Power, Derek Prince teaches us from this passage:
If, by the Holy Spirit, you are united with the resurrected Christ, through that union you will bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. The union of the regenerated spirit with the resurrected Christ by the Holy Spirit produces the fruits of righteousness. The regenerated nature does not need to strive to produce righteousness. All it has to do is be united with Christ. So this is a life of yielding, not struggling; union, not effort.
The analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15 helps us to better understand this life. Jesus said to His disciples,
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. (John 15:1)
Vines are fruit-bearing plants that need very careful pruning. If you fail to prune a vine at the right time of year, in the right way, it ceases to bring forth grapes.
Jesus was therefore saying, “I am the vine, and My Father is the one who does the pruning.” He went on to say,
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5)
A branch does not go through a lot of effort to bear grapes. It doesn’t make resolutions and say, “I’m going to bring forth fruit.” Instead, it is united to the trunk of the vine. The same life that is in the trunk flows through the branches in the sap, and the life in the branches brings forth the appropriate kind of fruit. Jesus said, “‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ If you will remain related to Me, in Me, joined to Me, you’ll bring forth much fruit.”
Jesus also gave us a warning that is very important. He said we have to expect to be pruned. “Every branch that bears fruit He [the Father] prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). Some Christians have problems because they are not bearing much fruit. They struggle with situations that are the results of their bad decisions or actions. Other Christians, however, experience problems because they are bearing fruit. These problems are really spiritual pruning. If you have ever seen a vine pruned, the process is ruthless. The branches are cut right back to the stem. You would think the vine was never going to bear fruit again. But the next year it is more fruitful than ever.
Note that a beautiful picture of the three persons of the Godhead emerges in this Scripture passage about the vine and the branches. The Father is the vinedresser, Jesus is the vine, and the Holy Spirit is the sap that flows up through the vine and into the branches. This life of the Spirit is what brings forth the fruit. Not the fruit of our best efforts, and not the fruit of religion, but the fruit of the Spirit.
When the Father is pruning us, we must not give up in the midst of the process. We shouldn’t say, “Why is this happening to me? I’ve sincerely tried to serve the Lord. I’m really doing my best, and I’ve done this, this, and this.” We have borne fruit, and now we are going to be purged. During these times, we need to breathe a sigh of relief and praise God. It is a good sign.
The main point I want to emphasise is that bearing the fruit of the Spirit is not an effort. All our efforts won’t do it, just as no effort will produce one grape in a thousand years. Only union with the Vine will do it. Many people want the overcoming life of the Spirit, but they don’t realise there is no instant version. Victorious, Spirit-filled living is arrived at by God’s process.
The parable of the vine is very helpful in understanding the spiritual pruning that we undergo in our own lives. Pruning can be painful, but it is imperative if we are to produce the highest possible yield of fruit.
At the DPM-UK property, Kingsfield, we are in the process of cutting back many of the big trees that grow here. It has led me to think more about how God cuts us back for our good. I am no arborist, but I can see how many of the principles of pruning apply spiritually.
One advantage of a pruned tree, for instance, is that it is less susceptible to damage in a wind storm because it has less branches to catch the wind. If a gale were to rip off some living branches, the tree may be vulnerable to disease, or be blown right over. Think about the root to branch ratio – A pruned tree has a relatively firmer foundation through its root system than an unpruned tree.
When we apply this to our lives, we can sometimes look back and see how God cut us back in a way that was perhaps painful, but later we saw His wisdom when we realised that had it not been for the fact that we were less exposed, we wouldn’t have survived a particular storm. This leads on to the fact that we must choose to yield to God’s pruning.
Sometimes, like Abraham, we are given a choice. Genesis 22 starts like this,
“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning …”
Abraham was tested severely, and he could have chosen not to yield. The fact that he did yield to God’s pruning and offered his son meant that many years later, God would offer His Son for our sake. We know that God provided a ram in the thicket to be sacrificed in place of Isaac, but at the point of obedience, Abraham was not to have known that.
Israel’s son, Joseph, was pruned, though for part of it, he had no choice. He had no choice in the fact that he was sold into slavery or later put into prison, but he did have a choice as to how he yielded himself to God’s pruning in Potiphar’s house and later in the king’s prison. As Joseph himself said later to his brothers in Genesis 45:8, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Joseph had come to understand God’s sovereignty in the situation and he had yielded himself to God’s pruning.
In the previous verse, Joseph says, “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Notice that in both Abraham’s situation and in Joseph’s situation, humbling themselves before God brought forth salvation. Can we accept that when we yield to God’s pruning in our lives that God can use it to bring salvation to others?
Shaping and Positioning
A well pruned tree is beautiful. In botanical gardens, or the gardens of some stately homes, it is possible to see trees that are over 100 years old that have a lovely shape and continue to bear lots of fruit. I have seen some amazing trees that have been espaliered to grow up against a wall which again, produce lots of fruit.
Different trees have different uses. The small woodland next to the DPM property was previously owned by a nursery who planted lots of different trees together. The trees were never sold and eventually they formed a small woodland. Amongst those trees are some cherry trees which have competed for light with the other trees and are 20-30 feet tall. Their fruit is small and bitter and way too high to be picked easily.
God chooses how to shape us and where to position us. Our part is to trust Him and to believe that He desires what is best for us. Perhaps we too are like the cherry tree competing for light with ash and beech trees – tall but not doing what we were made for.
In the quote from You Shall Receive Power, Derek reveals the primary reason why we are fruitful when we abide in Jesus – it is due to the sap of the Holy Spirit that flows through us from the Vine. It is the union that brings for the fruit.
It is very easy for Christians to do too much. There may be lots of church programmes to get involved in, people to visit or studies to do, but in another message, Derek Prince reminds us that there is no reward for un-commissioned work. What we are doing may be good in itself, but if God hasn’t commissioned us to do it, then He has no need to reward us for it.
This is an area where God’s pruning can be very useful. Consider yourself as a branch which divides and divides again. The sap of the Holy Spirit is flowing through each of those tiny branches, but the fruit that grows is small. Now consider asking God to prune you – it is painful and you have to yield. You come away with one or two branches, but when the new season comes those couple of branches yield big, beautiful, sweet fruit because the Gardener has done His work.
The Gardener Gets the Glory
Sometimes it is easy to overlook this fact, but when others look at a vineyard or enjoy the produce, they look beyond the luscious fruit to the one who brought it forth – the Gardener. When we yield to the pruning of the Father, onlookers will see the well pruned vines and look beyond the branches to the strength of the vine. But as they consider the Vine, the glory ultimately goes to the Father who has tended that Vine and made it what it is.
Are you ready to abide in the Vine in a new and fresh way, yielding to the pruning of the Gardener?
If you would like to do that, pray along with me:
Heavenly Father, we read in Your Word that we will be known by our fruit. I want to produce a bountiful harvest of fruit for Your glory. So today, I choose to yield to Your process.
I ask You to graft me into Jesus in a new and deeper way that I may abide in Him always. I choose to trust You to prune me in such a way that will bring the greatest harvest for Your glory.
Lord, by whatever means necessary, please keep me from pride – from ever accepting glory for the fruit that you produce through me. That glory belongs to You alone.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen